Julian Alaphilippe on losing Tour de France race lead: 'You can rewrite history with 'ifs''
Frenchman concedes yellow jersey to Trek-Segafredo's Giulio Ciccone
In the end, overnight Tour de France leader Julian Alaphilippe lost his yellow jersey by just six seconds to Trek-Segafredo's Giulio Ciccome – which was the same number of seconds that the stage 6 runner-up was awarded in time bonuses on the finish line. Despite Alaphilippe's valiant efforts to close the gap on the final climb up La Planche des Belles Filles, he at least initially stated that he didn't mind having to give up the race lead.
"I'm not disappointed. I've enjoyed the last three fantastic days in yellow," the Frenchman told L'Equipe before disappearing into his Deceuninck-QuickStep team bus.
But no one really believed him; Alaphilippe had, after all, just turned himself inside out to try to hold on to the jersey, falling short by the smallest of margins after stage winner Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida) and Ciccone had held on after being part of the day's breakaway.
"Julian will have fought extremely hard today. I know him," the 27-year-old's cousin and coach Franck Alaphilippe subsequently told the French sports newspaper. "He had a good day, and the yellow jersey gave him an extra boost. He gave it everything in the last 150 metres, and absolutely buried himself."
Deceuninck-QuickStep sports director Tom Steels showed equal admiration for Alaphilippe and his team's work rate.
"It was impressive," he said. "We rode on the front, without any help, for almost 90 kilometres. I just don't understand how winning the stage wasn't of interest [to other teams].
"I'm really disappointed for Julian. Six seconds is nothing… But we're not really a team that's made for the climbs," said Steels.
"My team's already controlled the race for the past few days, so it would have been very difficult to have kept the gap to a breakaway down to a minute or two on a stage like this," Alaphilippe later added. "There wasn't much more we could have done, but you can rewrite history with 'ifs'."
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By Josh Croxton